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“The process isn’t a case of report it and stop”: Athletes’ lived experience of whistleblowing on doping in sport

Authors:

Abstract

Whistleblowing is effective for exposing doping in sport, garnering increased support and promotion within the global anti-doping community. However, limited attention has been afforded towards understanding the doping whistleblowing process. In response, the authors convey a sense of the whistleblowing context by using the actual words of whistleblowers to illuminate their experience. To achieve this aim, the authors have adopted a narrative approach. Three doping whistleblowers were interviewed regarding their lived experiences of whistleblowing on doping and the data has been represented in the form of one composite creative non-fiction story. The story narrates the whistleblowing experience as a process whereby individuals must (a) determine what they witnessed and experienced was doping, (b) make the decision and take action to report it, and (c) deal with the myriad of consequences and emotions. It also highlights the dilemma faced by whistleblowers who are likely equally compelled to adhere to the moral of loyalty and fairness; yet in this context they are unable to do both. Stemming from the story presented and the forms of retribution experienced, the authors offer practical suggestions for sporting organisations to address in order to empower others to whistleblow on doping in sport. Specifically, organisations should establish and implement whistleblowing policies that: (a) provide protection for whistleblowers, (b) mandate whistleblowing education, and (c) identify an independent person for individuals to seek guidance and support from before, during and following the act of whistleblowing. © 2018 Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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The process isn’t a case of report it and stop”: Athletes’ lived experience of
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whistleblowing on doping in sport
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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Abstract
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Whistleblowing is effective for exposing doping in sport, garnering increased support and
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promotion within the global anti-doping community. However, limited attention has been
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afforded towards understanding the doping whistleblowing process. In response, the authors
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convey a sense of the whistleblowing context by using the actual words of whistleblowers to
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illuminate their experience. To achieve this aim, the authors have adopted a narrative
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approach. Three doping whistleblowers were interviewed regarding their lived experiences of
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whistleblowing on doping and the data has been represented in the form of one composite
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creative non-fiction story. The story narrates the whistleblowing experience as a process
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whereby individuals must (a) determine what they witnessed and experienced was doping, (b)
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make the decision and take action to report it, and (c) deal with the myriad of consequences
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and emotions. It also highlights the dilemma faced by whistleblowers who are likely equally
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compelled to adhere to the moral of loyalty and fairness; yet in this context they are unable to
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do both. Stemming from the story presented and the forms of retribution experienced, the
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authors offer practical suggestions for sporting organisations to address in order to empower
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others to whistleblow on doping in sport. Specifically, organisations should establish and
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implement whistleblowing policies that: (a) provide protection for whistleblowers, (b)
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mandate whistleblowing education, and (c) identify an independent person for individuals to
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seek guidance and support from before, during and following the act of whistleblowing.
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Key Words: whistleblowing, doping, narrative, retribution, policy development, creative
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non-fiction
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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1. Introduction
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For decades the concept of whistleblowing has been widely researched within the
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public sectors and is commonly defined as “…the disclosure by organisation members
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(former or current) of illegal, immoral, or illegitimate practices under the control of their
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employers, to persons or organisations that may be able to affect action” (Near & Miceli,
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1985, p. 4). Individuals are confronted with a serious dilemma when deciding what to do in
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possible whistleblowing situations. According to Uys and Senekal (2008), one must choose
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between adhering to the morality of loyalty (an obligation to people, organisations or groups
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within a particular context) versus the morality of principle (individuals should adhere to
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certain abstract principles irrespective of those involved in the situation). More recently, this
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dilemma has been referred to as the fairness-loyalty tradeoff (see Waytz, Dungan, & Young,
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2013). Fairness and loyalty are considered basic moral values but they conflict at times,
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including in potential whistleblowing situations. Norms of fairness demand that all people
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and groups be treated equally. Meanwhile, norms of loyalty dictate that one should favour
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their own group over other groups. The former requires that people report and punish
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wrongdoing, while the latter indicates that reporting another person to a third party
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constitutes an act of betrayal. Thus, there is justification and rationale for blowing the whistle
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and staying quiet (i.e., protecting the individual and the group), but only one can ultimately
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be safeguarded.
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Following high profile cases of whistleblowing in sport (e.g., Yuliya and Vitaly
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Stepanov regarding Russian Athletics), the concept of reporting wrongdoing has garnered
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increasing interest from researchers (Erickson, Backhouse, & Carless, 2017; Whitaker,
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Backhouse, & Long, 2014), the media and anti-doping organisations worldwide. Despite the
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increased emphasis and reliance upon intelligence-driven deterrence over the traditional
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detection-deterrence approach (i.e., drug testing), research on doping whistleblowing has not
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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kept pace with the developments in anti-doping policy and practice. Few researchers have
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considered the issue (see Whitaker et al., 2014; Erickson et al., 2017), and insights from
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individuals who have actually blown the whistle on doping are unavailable. This lack of
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understanding, alongside growing recognition for the limitations to the detection-deterrence
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approach (e.g., drug tests will never be able to detect all substances) inspired the present
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research. Specifically, we aimed to increase understanding of whistleblowing behaviour by
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engaging with those who have direct experience of living through the process. In doing so,
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there is an opportunity to design and implement evidence-based whistleblowing policies
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which, in turn, have the potential to: (a) reduce the negative stigma commonly attached to the
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label ‘whistleblower’ (e.g., snitch, tattletale), (b) deter athletes who may be considering
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doping from doing so as they will no longer feel confident that their behaviour will be kept
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secret and (c) create an open and transparent environment (Winneker, 2016). Additionally, it
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ensures that individual whistleblowers receive a certain level of care.
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The content of a whistleblowing policy has a direct influence on its effectiveness
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(Lewis, 2002). In order to implement a bespoke doping whistleblowing policy it is necessary
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to understand the doping whistleblowing experience. Collecting and sharing doping
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whistleblowers’ stories and representing their voices in literature presents a promising avenue
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for achieving this. Accordingly, we conceived this research to qualitatively explore the issue
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of whistleblowing on doping. We sought to achieve this by providing space for doping
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whistleblowers to share their stories and shed light on the whistleblowing experience from
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the whistleblower’s perspective. We hope that by adopting this approach, we can increase
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understanding and appreciation for the behaviour and, in turn, that the findings will inform
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and shape evidence-based doping whistleblowing policies and practices. Moreover, this shift
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serves to create a new narrative in which whistleblowers are applauded for their actions and
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celebrated which further encourages shared accountability for sporting integrity.
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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2. Background
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Whistleblowing is considered the most effective means of exposing fraud in the
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public sectors (Brown, Hays, & Stuebs, 2016) and recognition for its effectiveness is growing
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in the sporting world. Significant resources are now being directed towards Report Doping
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platforms in an attempt to encourage whistleblowing on doping, including the World Anti-
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Doping Agency’s (WADA) Speak Up! Platform (WADA, 2017) and accompanying
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Whistleblowing Program (2016) which outlines the rights afforded to whistleblowers. The
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Speak Up! platform was created in response to the disclosure of doping in Russia and the
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visible lack of whistleblower protection and provision that ensued. Following this incident,
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an emphasis on intelligence-driven approaches to anti-doping has emerged (e.g.,
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investigations) and the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC Article 10.6.1; WADA, 2015)
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further reinforces this shift by affording individuals the opportunity to have the length of their
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sanctions reduced (and/or removed entirely) for providing substantial assistance leading to an
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anti-doping rule violation. Although developments in whistleblowing policy have moved at
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pace, the literature base has not kept up.
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Whitaker and colleagues (2014) investigated the willingness of individual (track and
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field) and team-sport (rugby) national level British athletes to blow the whistle on doping and
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noted a difference in the way each group approached the issue, with rugby players
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demonstrating more hesitation in comparison to their track and field counterparts. The
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authors underlined the significance of contextual factors (e.g., team versus individual sports,
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size/popularity of sport) in determining how individuals in sport approach the issue of
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whistleblowing. Building on this research, Erickson and colleagues (2017) work with track
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and field student-athletes in the UK and US revealed that in situations of reporting doping,
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individuals are faced with a true moral dilemma two equally valid and demanding moral
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options (Uys & Senekal, 2008). Reinforcing the concept of the morality of principle versus
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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the morality of loyalty (fairness-loyalty tradeoff) in whistleblowing situations, doping
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whistleblowers must choose between (a) reporting the doping athlete to protect the rights of
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athletes at large to compete in doping-free sport (morality of loyalty; fairness) or (b) staying
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quiet to protect the doping athlete's athletic career, reputation and wellbeing (morality of
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principle; loyalty) given the social consequences associated with being labelled a doper
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(Georgiadis & Papazoglou, 2014). Importantly, someone gets hurt regardless of the final
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choice. Ensuing from the true moral dilemma, individuals were hesitant to blow the whistle
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on doping despite being personally opposed to engaging with doping substances and/or
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methods. Insightfully, this hesitation appeared to be largely underpinned by individuals’
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concerns regarding whistleblowing (potentially) damaging established relationships.
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Beyond the doping-specific context, the fear of retribution (e.g., job loss, negative
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labels) constitutes a dominant deterrent to whistleblowing and, importantly, its deterrent
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effect is enhanced when an organisation lacks clear whistleblowing policies that protect
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whistleblowers (Rennie & Crosby, 2002). Consequences for whistleblowers in the public
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sectors are commonplace and regularly include: (a) being bullied, shunned, negatively
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labelled and discredited by others (Dasgupta & Kesharwani, 2010); (b) having one’s
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reputation, job and livelihood seriously jeopardised (Baron, 2013); and (c) being victimised
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by employers with lawsuits, job loss, defamation and disgrace (Rennie & Crosby, 2002; Uys
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& Senekal, 2008). Forms of retribution within the context of whistleblowing on doping have
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not been examined in the literature and therefore our understanding of this seemingly
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complex decision to report doping is unacceptably poor. Thus, it is important to consider
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what the experience of whistleblowing is like, the determinants of the behaviour and gain a
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sense of the prevailing whistleblowing culture in sport.
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While empirical evidence related to whistleblowing on doping is limited, anecdotal
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evidence points to its complexity and reveals potentially significant ramifications for
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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engaging in the behaviour. For example, Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, who blew the whistle
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on doping in Russia, have experienced life-changing consequences since coming forward
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with doping information. The couple and their young son had to leave Russia and currently
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reside after multiple forced relocations at an undisclosed location in the US. Regular
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retaliation stemming from the whistleblowing has ensued, prompting Yuliya at one point to
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warn the public, “if something happens to us, all of you should know it was not an accident”
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(Axon, 2016). Following the Stepanovs’ revelations, Grigory Rodchenknov – the former lab
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director for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and self-proclaimed mastermind behind the
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Russian doping programme (Ingle, 2017) blew the whistle and corroborated the Stepanovs’
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allegations. Grigory also left Russia and remains under witness protection in the US (Harris,
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2017). His life has been threatened on numerous occasions and Grigory’s lawyer has been
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warned by US officials that they should assume Russian operatives are in the US looking for
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Grigory (Draper & Harris, 2017).
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The lives of both sets of whistleblowers have been forever altered by whistleblowing
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on doping in Russia. As it stands, it is not clear who (e.g., WADA, IOC) is responsible or
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accountable for protecting and compensating doping whistleblowers, nor when/how to
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facilitate such provisions
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. Moreover, it could be argued that the whistleblowing cases
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referenced here are unprecedented in scale and may not represent the experience of the
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broader sporting community. However, in the absence of an established whistleblowing
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literature base, we cannot draw a conclusion.
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3 Methodology and method
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3.1 Philosophical underpinnings
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The WADA’s Speak Up! platform (2017) and Whistleblower Program (2016) now outline WADA’s
policy and procedures for addressing whistleblowing cases that are reported directly to them.
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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Heeding the words of Smith and McGannon (2017), it is important to outline the
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philosophical position we have adopted throughout this research. Working within the
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interpretive paradigm, we adopted a relativist ontology, which assumes that reality is socially
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and experientially influenced and shaped. Transactional/subjectivist epistemology was
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assumed, meaning that the researchers and participants co-created the findings as the study
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progressed.
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3.2 Procedures
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Informed by our philosophical underpinnings, a narrative research approach was
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adopted in an attempt to shed light on the experience of whistleblowing on doping. Narrative
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inquiry focusses on the stories that people tell about their experiences (Sparkes & Smith,
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2014) and takes into consideration how these stories unfold over time (Smith, 2010). As
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Chase (2005) puts it, “narrative is a way of understanding one’s own and others’ actions, of
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organising events and objects into a meaningful whole, and of connecting and seeing the
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consequences of actions and events over time” (p. 656). There is a growing argument for
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viewing whistleblowing as a process that involves individuals going through several stages
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before deciding to take action and, at times, individuals may be required to whistleblow
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multiple times (e.g., Vandekerckhove & Phillips, 2017; Culiberg & Mihelic, 2017). Narrative
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inquiry therefore presents an ideal avenue for capturing nuanced understandings of this
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complex process. This co-constructed and negotiated approach contrasts starkly with
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previous whistleblowing research which has typically employed survey methodologies and
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hypothetical scenarios (Richardson & McGlynn, 2011). Whistleblowers are rarely invited to
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share their stories with researchers (Richardson & McGlynn, 2011) and no research to date
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has explored the lived experience of doping whistleblowers. This is problematic as an
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understanding of actual whistleblowers’ experiences is necessary to advance the
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whistleblowing research field (Culiberg & Mihelic, 2017) and establish evidence-informed
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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whistleblowing policy and practices (Richardson & McGlynn, 2011). Accordingly, in-depth
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interviews can provide valuable insights related to whistleblowing attitudes and behaviours
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(Winneker, 2016) and illuminate the doping whistleblowing process.
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After receiving ethical approval from the host institution, a combination of purposive,
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convenience and snowball sampling (Smith, 2013; McNamee, 2012) was used to identify and
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recruit participants who were: (a) publicly identified for whistleblowing on doping, (b) a US
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or UK resident and (c) a minimum 18 years of age. Recruitment was limited to the US and
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UK based on a desire to facilitate face-to-face interviews (the first author regularly travels
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between the two countries). Our goal was to recruit one participant but owing to the
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multifaceted sampling approach utilised, three individuals were quickly identified and agreed
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to participate. The participant sample included two males and one female and they had each
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blown the whistle on doping in the professional sporting context. Further demographic details
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have not been included in an attempt to protect the participants’ anonymity.
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A face-to-face interview lasting between one and three hours (average 110 minutes)
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was carried out by Kelsey Erickson (KE) with each individual participant at a time and place
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of their convenience. It was possible to conduct in-person interviews with two of the
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participants, but one participant was located abroad during data collection so the interview
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was conducted using Skype video. This “computer-mediated” technique (Sparkes & Smith,
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2014) allowed for face-to-face contact to be facilitated remotely (Schinke et al., 2017) and
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enabled us to overcome physical distances. Following each interview, KE recorded her initial
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reactions to the interview, including (a) how she felt, (b) observations of the participant (e.g.,
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speed of voice, eye contact, etc.) and (c) things that stood out in the participant’s story.
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Participants were made fully aware of the nature of the research prior to participating,
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and strong emphasis was placed on anonymity and confidentiality (with all personal details
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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being removed)
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. Once consent forms were signed, data was gathered through unstructured
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interviews. This approach allowed KE to collect insights on the whistleblowing experience
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while also enabling the participant to report their own thoughts and feelings (Sparkes &
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Smith, 2014). Each interview began with the open-ended question, “Can you walk me
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through your experience of reporting doping?” Follow up questions were then offered based
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on participants’ responses (e.g., what has happened since you reported?). Throughout the
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interview, KE was open to exploring any points that the participant raised in relation to their
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whistleblowing experience; thus, providing participants with control over what was shared
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(Blodgett et al., 2011). Thanks to the approach adopted, the need for follow up prompts was
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limited.
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3.3 Data analysis and representation
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Researchers need to make informed choices and consider why a particular method is
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appropriate for certain research (Smith & Papathomas, 2017) and sport management
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researchers have been challenged to push the boundaries of traditional thinking and be
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innovative with how data (a) is generated and (b) represented (see Shaw & Hoeber, 2016;
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Stride, Fitzgerald, & Allison, 2017). Given our desire to shed light on the doping
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whistleblowing experience with a view to inform whistleblowing policy and practices, we
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have adopted a storytelling approach to this research. Stories were favoured given their
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ability to reveal links and connections across individuals’ histories and provide insights into
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causes and consequences of behaviour (Carless, Sparkes, Douglas, & Cook, 2014).
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Storytelling also provides an opportunity to gain an emotive, accessible, visceral and
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embodied understanding of one’s life when employed to gather, analyse, and represent
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While details of specific events and people have been removed, at the time of interview they
were corroborated in publicly available stories.
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psychological research (Carless et al., 2014). In light of this, we have adopted a creative non-
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fiction (CNF) approach to representing our findings.
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3.3.1 Creative non-fiction
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Creative non-fiction (CNF) is a form of creative analytic practice that tells a story
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(Smith, McGannon, & Williams, 2015) rather than providing an account of research (Smith
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& Papathomas, 2017). The use of CNF has gained traction in the field of sport and exercise
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psychology (e.g., Schinke et al., 2017; Blodgett et al., 2017; Erickson, Backhouse, & Carless,
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2016) largely due to its ability to provoke readers to think with the research rather than just
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about it (Smith et al., 2013). CNF stories are grounded in research data, draw on literary
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conventions, and are fictional in form but factual in content (Smith, Tomasone, Latimer-
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Cheung, & Martin Ginis, 2015). The term ‘fiction’ can cause tension for some scholars
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(Sparkes, 2002a), but the story presented here is largely in the words of the participants and is
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based on interview transcripts we gathered ‘in the field.’ We therefore consider it an example
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of CNF a story based on actual data gathered by the researcher (Sparkes, 2002b). CNF was
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considered the most appropriate way to represent our data because it can: (a) protect
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anonymity, (b) elicit emotional reactions, (c) be useful for exploring taboo and silenced
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issues, (d) keep participants’ words intact, (e) provide the possibility of portraying the
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complexity and ambiguity of lived experience, (f) be effective for knowledge translation, and
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(g) facilitate vicarious learning for readers (Smith et al., 2015; Schinke et al., 2017).
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Given the high profile of our participants and our desire to protect their identities, we
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have created a composite CNF story an amalgamation of multiple viewpoints presented as
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if it were one person’s experience (Spalding & Phillips, 2007). This approach allowed us to
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draw together multiple experiences and weave them into a powerful single account (Schinke
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et al., 2017). The story is therefore meant to be read as a synthesised account rather than as
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quotes from one individual athlete’s experience (Blodgett & Schinke, 2015).
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3.3.2 Creating the story
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It is important to note that there is no formula or list of steps that must or should be
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followed when crafting a story, so authors are required to detail the rigorous process they
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have followed (Smith & Sparkes, 2012). In crafting this story, all interviews were audio-
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recorded (as agreed by participants) and transcribed verbatim by KE. Next, KE read each
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individual transcript multiple times, highlighting key words, quotes, and ideas that seemed to
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represent the individual whistleblower’s experience. KE then examined the data and noted
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recurring patterns, trends, and interesting features (Stride et al., 2017). Following this
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process, segments reflecting common trends across the three transcripts were copied into a
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separate document that formed the initial story skeleton. Direct quotes were maintained from
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the interview transcripts wherever possible in order to present participants’ spoken words
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(Blodgett & Schinke, 2015). Next, the story skeleton was compared to the notes KE recorded
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after each interview to ensure that the key points were accounted for in the story. Importantly,
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this included both common themes across the transcripts and notable unique features. Finally,
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the experiences and ideas contained in the narrative skeletons were linked together by writing
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around them so that a flowing representation of the combined narratives was produced
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(Erickson et al., 2016). The writing process was iterative and involved regularly moving back
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and forth between the individual transcripts, interview notes, and the unfolding storyline until
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a coherent story was shaped (Smith, 2013; Stride et al., 2017).
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Once the initial story was drafted, KE reviewed it alongside each of the individual
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transcripts to ensure that it accurately represented the three participants’ combined
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experiences. The story was then sent to a group of critical friends with a view to enhance the
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quality of the story and gauge reactions to it (Smith & Papathomas, 2017; Smith &
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McGannon, 2017). We also returned the story to each of the individual participants and
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invited them to openly critique and revise it (Blodgett & Schinke, 2015). This was done to
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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ensure that participants were satisfied that the story adequately protected their identities
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(Sparkes & Smith, 2014) rather than to serve as a form of member checking to
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(inappropriately) establish rigour (Smith & McGannon, 2017).
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3.3.3 Story structure
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Stories do not tell readers what to think but invite them to join in and form their own
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diverse interpretations (Carless & Sparkes, 2008). Engaging fictional techniques (e.g.,
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vernacular language, composite characters, dialogue, flashbacks/forwards, metaphor, and
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tone shift) are central to achieving this and enables the reader to participate vicariously in the
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story (Sparkes & Smith, 2014). Creating a composite story involved providing links between
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the three different accounts and making choices regarding what was included and excluded.
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The aims of the research (i.e., to shed light on and understand the doping whistleblowing
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experience) remained at the forefront of our minds throughout this process. However, we
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appreciate that different authors may have made different choices in relation to what to
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include or exclude. We have therefore attempted to be transparent in relation to how our story
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was created and why (Erickson et al., 2016).
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3.3.4 Criteria for judgement
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There is no predetermined or universal list of criteria for judging the quality of
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qualitative research so qualitative researchers must make informed decisions and use criteria
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from lists that are not fixed or predetermined (Smith & McGannon, 2017). For the purposes
300
of this research, we examined multiple lists offered by leading scholars in the field (e.g.,
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Carless & Sparkes, 2008; Smith et al., 2015) and reflected upon their rationales in order to
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shape our own. Ensuing from this, and considering our specific research aims, we suggest the
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following criteria (in the form of questions to be asked) for judging our research: (a) is the
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story believable; (b) does it create a space for silenced voices to be heard; (c) have the
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individual stories been brought together in a way that creates a meaningful account of the
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
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individuals’ experiences; (d) has the story provided new knowledge or deeper understanding
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of the whistleblowing experience; (e) does the story move the reader to act; (f) does the story
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impact the reader emotionally; and (g) is the story accessible to a wide range of readers? We
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encourage the reader to use this list of questions to judge the quality of our research.
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4 The story
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A composite story is presented here encompassing the experiences of three doping
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whistleblowers. While the events that unfold in the story are real, they do not
313
chronologically, or temporally, represent each individual’s experience (Smith, 2013). Rather,
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the three experiences have been combined to convey a coherent order of events. The aim of
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the story is to shed light on the doping whistleblowing experience from the perspective of the
316
whistleblower with a view to inform bespoke doping whistleblowing policy and practice.
317
What emerged from the interviews was an indication that blowing the whistle on doping is a
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process rather than an event with a clear start and finish. In an attempt to depict this, the story
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has been presented in sections which represent the multiple steps that participants detailed in
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relation to the whistleblowing process.
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“The whole process isn’t a case of report it and stop. It’s a case of report it, and that affects
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my life until now.
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4.1 Step 1: “It’s not black and white”
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In your head you think, “it’s black and white. This is simple. How could someone not
327
know?” But we lose context and we don’t have context unless we are there. A lot of things
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that make sense from the outside are completely jumbled and messy when you’re in it
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yourself and even looking back you can be like, “oh yeah. Of course, that was off or wrong.
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But in that moment, it’s hard to identify. So, step one as a whistleblower is actually coming
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to terms with what you saw or what you experienced. It sounds really simple to do, but it
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took me it took others I know months to actually come to terms with, “oh yeah that was
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shitty. That broke some rules, or most likely broke some rules.” Looking back now, there
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were signs earlier a lot of really small things that just kept adding up but I literally would
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never have put it together. I started to look back on everything and see everything and I was
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like “holy shit.” And that’s the reality – most of the time it’s not, “I saw some guy inject
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testosterone. Here’s a picture and video recording of it here’s everything;” it’s not black
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and white like that. I think acknowledging that is really important. Step one is coming to
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terms with the fact that what you saw was wrong.
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Then, before you step forward, you essentially do this risk assessment scenario. I
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remember debating for months, “do I move on with my life? Yeah, this really sucks, but if I
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don’t say anything no one will know; they’ll just keep doing stuff but I can go do what I want
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and do things the right way and learn from it and not have any trouble or drama or
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repercussions or anything like that.” That’s one option, and I’d probably say that’s the easy
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choice to make. Especially if you’re young; it’s a lot easier to be like, “that sucks, but I have
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my whole life and career ahead of me.” But then the other side of it – the part that eats away
347
at you says, “yeah, but it’s still wrong.” Or, “this doesn’t feel good. This doesn’t settle with
348
me.” From the outside perspective, it’s easy to say, “it’s wrong. Go tell,” but when you’re
349
stuck in it and you have no resources to go to, it’s basically this internal battle where you
350
debate these things because no one else understands it. No one understands what you go
351
through because it’s such a rare thing. There was no one for me to look to. I really didn’t
352
know where to go or what to do. There were maybe three people in the world who I’d heard
353
of who had blown a whistle on something. I couldn’t reach out and call them to figure out
354
what the best course of action was! So, I was basically sitting there going, “well this is my
355
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
16
pro-career and then this is what’s going to happen if I don’t report.” You sit there for hours
356
thinking, “is it worth it? I’ve put this much of my life into this already.” It’s hard.
357
So, I guess before blowing the whistle, it’s this internal struggle that goes on for a
358
really long time. That was probably the most difficult part. From the moment that I realized
359
doping was happening, I would just always say, “I’m never going to go public with it until I
360
retire because I know it will just sink my career.” The only thing I was thinking was, if
361
anything, “I’m just going to quit.” If you say that people cheated and you didn’t cheat, the
362
fear of everyone thinking that you cheated will keep you quiet. I knew I hadn’t cheated, but I
363
knew everyone would think I was. And I understand that. Of course, anyone is going to think
364
that. That will keep a lot of people silent. I’ve dedicated my whole life to this so to have
365
people just dismiss it? I knew that would happen if I came forward, but I didn’t want it to. So,
366
I never thought about reporting it going public or talking to anyone. Not even going to my
367
national anti-doping organisation (NADO). I just wanted to move on and get as far away
368
from it as possible. Either be able to move on with another team, or just quit. I just wanted to
369
get my life back. So, I tried to move on with my life. I tried to forget about it for a long time.
370
Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
371
Staying quiet put me in this world where I was lying to everybody and I started
372
thinking, “why? Why am I protecting people who did shady stuff and treated a bunch of
373
people like shit?” Over time, shit eats away at you and you feel like you have to do
374
something. I felt like, I know the truth and no one else is doing anything about it. I don’t want
375
to, but I know what it’s like to be robbed of an opportunity from someone who’s cheating. It
376
got to the point where it was going to eat me alive to know that I could have done something
377
and I didn’t. So I thought, “it’s time. I’m just going to tell the truth and whatever happens,
378
happens. I just need to get this off my chest.” It was just kind of brewing and then finally I
379
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
17
had my tipping point and I was like, “fuck it! I’ve got to do something with this. I’m going to
380
tell somebody.
381
If only it was that simple.
382
Instead, whistleblowing is a process.
383
The next question was, “okay, who do I tell?” In one sense, you have your NADO,
384
which makes sense to tell. But in today’s climate it’s like, “well who do I trust? Do I trust my
385
NADO? Could I go to my national governing body (NGB)?” It’s hard to talk about it, but the
386
NGB, until you have anything to do with them, they are and NADOs as well to a certain
387
extent they are this huge monster that no one wants anything to do with because they are
388
labelled that way and if you’re in contact with the NGB it’s because you’ve done something
389
wrong. There’s this big stigma around them. You don’t want anything to do with the
390
governing body, which is hard. You just assume they’re a bit bad. On top of that, I don’t
391
know who these people are. I don’t know who to trust. I was questioning, “who do I give this
392
information over to and then trust to take care of it and understand things? I can’t just tell
393
anyone because they don’t understand how big it is.” The other side of it is, they don’t know
394
you. They don’t know your background, so they could say, “do we trust this person? Is s/he
395
making this up?” It’s just a shit show of who to trust and no one really knows. It’s almost like
396
you live in this paranoid world where you don’t know who to trust.
397
4.2 Step 2: “People need to know”
398
I guess getting to that point of stepping forward the threshold I crossed was, “okay.
399
I just need to get this off my chest. I’m going to send an anonymous tip to the NADO and
400
then, whatever. Someone knows something.” So, I sent an email on their tip line without any
401
name at all just sent it out into the ether and then sat there for a week or so and was like,
402
“this sucks. I don’t know if anything happened to it.” So, the next step was, “I’m going to
403
send it and I’ll attach my email address to it,” and each step you make requires another
404
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
18
internal turmoil to go through. So, I sent that out there and got a reply saying “we’d love to
405
talk to you.
406
When I got the response, I didn’t want to risk myself and my freedom and finances
407
and all that stuff, but eventually you just say, “you know what? It’ll be stronger and it means
408
more if it has my name and my face to it and consequences be damned.” I was scared to go
409
because I was afraid that somehow someone would find out that I went to the NADO. I was
410
petrified that I was going to lose my contract. I was so paranoid. So, I didn’t tell anybody, but
411
I met with someone at the NADO. I was there for probably four hours. I cried a lot, I felt
412
guilty about the whole thing. I felt like I was betraying people that I care about because it’s
413
so fucked up but even though I think they’re cheating, I still care about them because I
414
know them as people. It’s so hard. You’ve been through so much with these people. And that
415
was the hard thing to describe to the NADO, because they’re like, “why are you crying?”
416
And I’m trying to explain, “because I feel like I’m betraying these people. They’re my
417
friends. They’re my family. I spent years with them and it sucks.” It’s just hard. It’s not as
418
simple as, “I saw someone cheat.” I think a lot of people neglect to realise that you’re a
419
person, not just an athlete. It’s so much more complicated than people think. It’s not black
420
and white.
421
Anyways, after I reported I assumed the response would be, “we’re going to get to the
422
bottom of this.” I imagined I would go in, I would tell them about the people they need to talk
423
to, they would talk to those people, and then they would have what they need and it would be
424
done.
425
Wrong.
426
Instead, it’s two months later and there has been nothing but complete radio silence.
427
In your head you’re going crazy thinking, “do they give a shit? Are they going to do
428
anything? Does this really matter?” By that point, I was absolutely certain that nothing was
429
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
19
going to be done. There was no contact. Nothing. I was so angry and I went into a bit of a
430
spiral. You’ve just thrown your entire career or it feels like you’re throwing your entire
431
career out the window, and they just disappear off the face of the planet. I was getting
432
pretty pissed off because I’ve ruined my sports career and they’ve done absolutely nothing
433
about it. My life is getting ruined while you guys are just sitting around. You kind of just get
434
the feeling that what you’ve done is a bit pointless and you’ve thrown your life away in
435
return for them not giving a shit about anything. It makes you question, “are these the guys I
436
should trust? Or are these not the guys I should trust?” It sows seeds of doubt where you’re
437
thinking, “I gave them some shit that was interesting but you know, maybe not?” And you
438
also start to wonder, “for goodness sake, is it still corrupt?”
439
Eventually I decided that if the NADO was not going to do anything then people at
440
least needed to know so, “fuck it. Let people know.” The logical thing would have been not
441
to do that but, again, you expect (a) the NADO has the information, then (b) relief on my end.
442
But there’s no relief because no one knows you did anything. And no one knows that there’s
443
investigations or anything. So, I was just like, “screw it.” Let’s just deal with it. Deal with it
444
in the public and if that’s all, that’s all. But at least people can make their decisions.
445
Things really changed when I went public.
446
There was no turning back.
447
4.3 Step 3: “It has totally changed my life”
448
Honestly, the whole experience has just sucked basically. Yeah. It’s been really
449
sucky. That’s kind of the bottom line. I don’t even know how to describe it. Let’s put it this
450
way, I wouldn’t want even people I don’t like to go through some of the shit I went through.
451
Why would I say that? Because all I’ve had is loss since I spoke out. I haven’t gained
452
anything from reporting. All I’ve had is stress and anxiety and loss. It’s just stressful. I am
453
not confrontational. I am not a vocal person, but now I have to be. I have to stand up for
454
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
20
myself. I would rather not be like that, because it’s just not the way I’m wired. But it has
455
totally changed the direction my life has gone. I have to stand up for myself and speak out.
456
It’s tiring. I’m not controversial. I swear, I’m like so vanilla but that’s how I’m labelled now
457
and it’s just changed everything about my life.
458
When it all comes out publicly, half the world hates you. I have people who I was
459
friendly with who now think I’m the worst person ever. There’s always going to be the 20%
460
that are like, “what the fuck are you doing? You should not have done that!” I think the
461
hardest thing for me is going through comments and things like that on media pages and just
462
going through some of the stuff people say. Yeah, I think that has been the hardest thing the
463
constant harassment. I mean constant. It just gets so old. I would say that’s been the hardest
464
thing for me because I don’t like to fight with anybody and it’s just non-stop. I feel like
465
whenever I do anything whenever there is a newspaper article then these people get vocal
466
again and as much as I know they’re crazy, it’s still exhausting. It’s like – I’m damned if I do,
467
I’m damned if I don’t. If I don’t answer reporters’ questions, what am I trying to hide? If I do
468
answer, I’m an attention-whore that just won’t shut up about it. And when I’m getting
469
harassed on social media or whatever it’s just me. It’s not me and five other people; it’s just
470
me. I feel like I’m just standing alone.
471
So, naturally, in the beginning, I think I felt sorry for myself. I let my emotional roller
472
coaster control what I was doing. I was letting myself be railroaded by something that I had
473
no control over. I spent two or three months essentially just living in a bar with my friends.
474
The thing you have to realize is, it affects you as much as it affects the person you’ve blown
475
the whistle on. At the end of the day, it’s mentally crushing. The mental, emotional turmoil is
476
a definite consequence of whistleblowing. I went through nights where I’d just sit and talk for
477
hours and hours about what I was feeling and why it wasn’t fair. And on top of that, I worry
478
about stupid stuff. I worry about being sabotaged. I’m paranoid now. I’m paranoid about
479
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
21
everything. I’m paranoid about if something was off when the drug testers came to test me.
480
I’m crazy, right? But that’s how I think – they’re going to try and make me look bad at some
481
point. In my defence, I had my computer hacked and emails and stuff wiped off of it before I
482
went public. There was a chunk of time where stuff just disappeared off my computer. Some
483
of it I’ll never get back but some of it I had happened to forward to my family who had saved
484
it but these people are crazy.
485
What else?
486
Coming forward has changed how I’m perceived and who wants to work with me.
487
Before reporting, I had a contract that basically just needed signatures and they pulled it after
488
all the stuff came out, which is my fault I’m the one that spoke. I think it was just the fact
489
that there was so much risk associated with me. No one wants drama, right? And,
490
unfortunately, I am labelled ‘drama’. It looks like I’ve been involved with some form of
491
scandal. I think I will forever have the doping scandal over my head as, “do I want to hire this
492
athlete? Yes. But then do I want my team to be even slightly associated to anything doping?
493
No.” There’s a specific audience that would hire me now. If a team hires me then that puts
494
them in the spotlight as having something to do with anti-doping and it’s a lot easier for a
495
team, or any form of organization, to be completely separate from that. If I was to say
496
something about doping and then their team get caught doing something even marginally
497
wrong, then that would blow up in their face to the point that they wouldn’t have a team
498
anymore. So, there’s always going to be the doubt as to what benefit and cost/risk I bring. So
499
yeah, it definitely complicates the contract side of things. Losing contracts has been hard.
500
Obviously. Who wants to lose contracts?
501
Then there’s the fact that people will always question your trust. They know that if
502
they do something wrong, there’s a chance that I’ll report again. That has been made clear to
503
me. For example, I got injured last season and I was taking painkillers. You should have seen
504
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
22
the look on the trainers’ faces and the things they would say to make it completely clear that
505
what they were giving me was just paracetamol they were shit scared. They presumed that I
506
would drop them in shit for absolutely anything. Same thing when I get sick; now they bring
507
the package of whatever they are giving me and make me read it and Google it. As a
508
whistleblower, you have to build trust with people rather than assume trust. Along those
509
lines, no one wants to be seen with you because they know they get labelled. It’s that ‘stay
510
well clear’ kind of thing. I think it’s just a mind-set. It’s, “stay safe, keep your nose clean.
511
It’s natural. Think about it, if someone in your town was caught up in a murder case, you
512
wouldn’t go and spend lots of time with them and discuss it with them, would you? You’d
513
probably not want anything to do with them. It makes sense, but it puts you on an island
514
versus everyone else.
515
One thing no one ever really talks about is the fact that as a whistleblower, your life is
516
on hold. You can’t sit there and be like every other person and be like, “here are my goals
517
three, five years down the line. Here’s what I want to do to accomplish that.” You don’t have
518
the full deck of opportunities that everyone else has because you came forward. That’s the
519
reality of it. I mean, I’ll never coach athletes with a particular sponsor – it’ll never happen. At
520
the same time, my future athletes will not get a contract offer from that sponsor. Guaranteed.
521
So, it impacts other people too those associated with you. You’re putting them in a situation
522
where they might have to defend you or might have someone you know talk shit to them
523
about it. That sucks. The same goes for family and friends. I’ve had more arguments about
524
me stepping forward whether it’s with parents, brothers, sisters, partners, best friends – you
525
have these blow up arguments on stuff cos they’re trying to look out for your best interests.
526
Actually, it’s tougher to see close people deal with it than yourself because you can process it
527
and come to terms with it and rationalise it it’s not as tough for me as it for my family. It
528
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
23
causes strife and I think that’s something that you don’t take into consideration. It wears on
529
everybody.
530
Also, knoing about doping puts you in a weird situation when you’re still in the sport
531
because it changes the perspective you have of it. It’s easy to almost go through these
532
depressed states where you’re like, “well this shit sucks. Why am I doing this?” You almost
533
lose your why and your purpose on things. If you don’t watch it, it’s really easy to go down
534
this path of bitterness and just have bitterness towards everybody towards sport, towards
535
everything. I don’t want to be this bitter, chip on my shoulder, can’t enjoy the sport person. I
536
love the sport. But, as bad as it seems, you do feel like the sport kind of owes you some sort
537
of helping hand. I mean, I’ll have really good days where I’m like, “yeah it’s just how the
538
world works. It was just unlucky.” But, then there are days where I feel like sport owes me so
539
much more. I still feel bitter now in the sense that I’ve missed out on what could have been
540
my professional sports career because of it. I could still be competing professionally, living
541
my dream. But, I reported doping. So, it affects the amount that I’m willing to invest in sport
542
personally. Before this experience, sport would run my entire life. Whereas now, I don’t trust
543
sport enough to let it run my entire life anymore. If I’m honest, the fire is not as bright as it
544
was before because I’ve seen what professional sport is actually like. When you’ve seen the
545
dark side of it, it’s not as appealing as you think when you’re 19, you know? I guess I just
546
doubt a lot more than I realistically should. Don’t get me wrong – I love the sport! I just only
547
trust it 80% now compared to 100% before. Actually, I think that’s what fuelled a lot of my
548
anger in the beginning the fact that I had this idea of how amazing being fulltime and being
549
professional would be. It’s hard to get brought back down to the level where it’s actually at –
550
to reality and I think that’s probably the most painful thing. It’s hard when sport isn’t
551
actually what it portrays. I wouldn’t say that the sport has changed though, more that I’ve
552
grown up and learned how sport works. I now understand that people are hungry to win and
553
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
24
there’s always going to be a small percentage of people that are hungry enough to break the
554
rules.
555
I used to think that when it was over I would be so happy. But now I think I’ll just
556
feel so relieved. I don’t even know that I’ll feel happy. The truth is, I don’t even want to see
557
them get sanctioned. I just want them to not compete. It’s so weird. I mean, I want justice and
558
I know that means they have to be sanctioned but, human to human, I feel bad. It doesn’t
559
make me feel good. It’s not like if they get sanctioned then I’m going to be so happy. It’s just
560
a shitty feeling. It’s a shitty feeling to know that you’re essentially ending someone’s career.
561
That feels bad. Even the biggest drug cheat of all time Lance is a person. With children
562
and with a mom. It sucks. I wish it wasn’t so hard.
563
It’s going to sound crazy, but even after everything that has happened, I don’t really
564
regret going public. I hate the way it has changed my life and the negative things that it’s
565
changed but, I feel free. It can’t affect me anymore. I mean it does, but it’s different. Before
566
reporting, I was drowning and hating sport. I just felt, “I hate this sport. It’s a bunch of
567
fakers.” I was just kind of surviving. After I spoke out though, things kind of turned around.
568
It was like this burden had been lifted for me personally. That alone has been worth it for me;
569
that I don’t have to carry around their secrets anymore. It would kill me. Carrying that around
570
I hated it. I hated always lying and putting it on me. I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t
571
have to carry around that crap. Mentally, it has freed me. Clearing my conscience and being
572
able to tell myself my own story is immense. It was such a big deal in my life and it’s
573
something that I’m very proud of. As athletes, we would do 99.9% of anything to win. That is
574
our job. I’d like to think that the whole thing tested me, and I passed. A lot of people would
575
question or fail that test. I was willing to throw my career away purely to be the person that I
576
want to be. How many people can say that?
577
5 Discussion
578
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
25
The aim of our research was to give voice to the experiences of doping
579
whistleblowers, and in doing so, inform evidence-based doping whistleblowing policy and
580
practices. We hope this story will resonate with the reader and facilitate deeper understanding
581
of the whistleblowing experience and its effect on the whistleblower. Given the absence of
582
evidence in relation to whistleblowing on doping in sport, we were committed to making this
583
research accessible to audiences beyond academia (Smith, 2013). That is, the people and
584
organisations with the power to bring about change in their club, sport or institution. As a
585
starting point, the stories were shared with the participants. Their reactions were both
586
encouraging and challenging at the same time. After reviewing it, one participant said,
587
obviously there was so much of my story in there that it was pretty personal.Another stated
588
that, “it definitely represents what I experienced” and the final participant responded with,
589
“that sounds amazing. We were encouraged to find that all three participants felt the story
590
represented their personal experience, especially considering it was a combination of all three
591
accounts.
592
The challenging aspect of the participants’ reactions came from one whistleblower
593
who said, “it will be important to stress that these are real life experiences by real people.
594
Indeed, this story represents real doping whistleblowers experiences and, consistent with
595
previous research in the sport setting (see McGlynn & Richardson, 2014), their collective
596
voice demonstrates that they encountered professional and personal consequences associated
597
with their choice to whistleblow. Given the impact of whistleblowing on human lives
598
depicted in this story, we commit to sharing the story in such a way that it galvanises action
599
so that the whistleblowing experience can be improved moving forward. To begin, this story
600
highlights for the first time in literature that the doping whistleblower is (a) faced with the
601
fairness-loyalty tradeoff and (b) experiences retribution for whistleblowing.
602
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
26
Our research substantiates Waytz and colleagues (2013) argument that
603
whistleblowers are faced with a fairness-loyalty tradeoff. Becoming aware of doping
604
behaviour did not immediately result in reporting doping but, rather, the whistleblower had to
605
make a conscious decision to report knowing that it would (likely) impact personal
606
relationships. The severity of this decision is underlined in that the whistleblower was in
607
turmoil even during the act of whistleblowing (I felt guilty about the whole thing. I felt like I
608
was betraying people that I care about) and these emotions endured to the present (I feel
609
bad. It doesn’t feel good…it’s a shitty feeling to know you’re essentially ending someone’s
610
career). These statements demonstrate the whistleblower’s appreciation for the importance
611
of loyalty and that they feel they jeopardised it by reporting (i.e., adhering to the fairness
612
moral). Importantly, the story also extends the complexity presented by this tradeoff by
613
highlighting the need for considering the consequences of whistleblowing for the
614
whistleblower themselves. This extra element the need to consider one’s own welfare
615
perhaps adds another form of rationale and justification for adhering to the loyalty norm.
616
Ultimately, choosing to report doping is an active step towards ensuring clean sport and
617
benefits the sporting community as a whole. Yet, it comes at a cost to the (a) doper (i.e.,
618
sanction) and (b) the whistleblower (e.g., reputational damage, emotional distress, etc.).
619
For the first time the potentially devastating impact that whistleblowing on doping
620
can have for the whistleblower is storied. The whistleblower indicates that whistleblowing
621
affects you as much as it affects the person you have blown the whistle on. Notably, the
622
whistleblower assumed they would encounter negative repercussions for reporting prior to
623
actually whistleblowing (e.g., just sink my career” and assume I cheated) and initially
624
these anticipated consequences served as justification to wait to report until after their career
625
ended. However, the individual ultimately did whistleblow and as anticipated, they faced
626
retribution for their behaviour. Consistent with the wider whistleblowing literature (e.g.,
627
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
27
Dasgupta & Kesharwani, 2010; Baron, 2013; Rennie & Crosby, 2002; Uys & Senekal, 2008),
628
the whistleblower was shunned and distanced from family members, peers in and out of
629
sport, and the public/media; had their trustworthiness questioned by peers; experienced
630
financial/career consequences in the form of lost sponsorships and contracts; and experienced
631
emotional distress.
632
While the forms of retribution faced by the whistleblower are generally consistent
633
with existing literature in the public sectors, it is worth noticing areas where our findings
634
extend the literature. First, emotional distress potentially impacts athlete whistleblowers more
635
significantly than non-athlete whistleblowers since an athlete’s livelihood and career is based
636
on their physical performances. Not being in a positive emotional state can therefore have
637
direct implications for their physical performance and, in turn, jeopardise their career and
638
financial livelihood. Second, the fear that the public will assume you were doping if you
639
report doping also appears to be a unique whistleblowing feature in sport. By reporting
640
doping, one (potentially) raises suspicion about how you would be privy to that information
641
without being a part of it? Drawing unnecessary attention to yourself in the doping context is
642
not a particularly beneficial action within sport. Thus, providing incentive and rationale to not
643
report doping. Comparable concerns are currently not documented in the wider
644
whistleblowing literature and therefore warrant further attention by sport researchers.
645
Based on the story presented here, the current whistleblowing culture in sport appears
646
to be more likely to deter someone from whistleblowing than to encourage them to
647
whistleblow. In order for whistleblowing to effectively complement the constrained
648
detection-deterrence approach to anti-doping, the culture surrounding it must change. So,
649
what can be done to shift the pendulum from discouraging to encouraging whistleblowing on
650
doping?
651
5.1 Practical implications
652
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
28
The first and arguably most important step for changing the culture and narrative
653
around whistleblowing on doping is to design and implement evidence-based anti-doping
654
whistleblowing policies. Whistleblowing policies are commonplace in the public sector but
655
rare in the sport doping context. Consequently, resources for reporting doping exist largely in
656
the absence of policies designed to protect those who engage with them.
657
Based on the story presented here, protection for the whistleblower must be at the
658
centre of a doping whistleblowing policy. This would include protection for an individual’s
659
athletic career, sponsorship deals, contracts and physical and emotional wellbeing. That said,
660
the global sporting context presents a challenge in this regard because retribution for
661
whistleblowers could come from various organisations (e.g., NADO, NGB, sponsors). This
662
means that even if the organisation that the whistleblower reported to (e.g., NADO) had an
663
established whistleblowing policy it would not necessarily be able to protect a whistleblower
664
from retribution launched by external individuals or organisations. This reality reiterates the
665
importance of changing the culture surrounding whistleblowing on doping. We need to shift
666
the focus from the messenger to the message and view whistleblowing as the beginning of
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problem solving rather than as problem causing (Richardson & McGlynn, 2011). Propagating
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whistleblowing as a positive act is the most prevalent approach taken to encourage
669
whistleblowing in the public sectors (Brown et al., 2016) and should be promoted within
670
sport.
671
Alongside implementing whistleblowing policies, this story highlights a need for
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whistleblower education in sport. Whistleblower education should serve to teach (a)
673
individuals how to whistleblow, (b) what their rights are as whistleblowers, and (c) the
674
multifaceted benefits of reporting doping in sport. Providing whistleblowing education can
675
help change the whistleblowing culture because it: (a) signals that an organisation values
676
whistleblowing, (b) increases the likelihood that individuals will report wrongdoing, and (c)
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
29
reduces retribution to whistleblowers by sending the message that the organisation will
678
protect whistleblowers from such behaviour (Caillier, 2016). Each of these factors represents
679
an important step towards establishing trust between athletes and sporting organisations
680
which, based on this story, is an important factor in encouraging individuals to whistleblow.
681
Given the varying benefits of whistleblower education, and consistent with the approach
682
adopted by government agencies (Caillier, 2016), we would encourage organisations to
683
include education provision as a requirement within their whistleblowing policies.
684
Finally, whistleblowing policies should include the appointment of an independent
685
individual that sporting personnel can contact with queries and/or concerns related to
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whistleblowing. Our story highlights the emotional turmoil that the whistleblower
687
experienced from the moment they realised they had witnessed doping; therefore, an
688
independent and suitably trained contact should be available at all times (before, during, after
689
whistleblowing). Independent advice is considered a vital aspect of fair and effective
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whistleblowing procedures within the public sector (Vandekerckhove & Lewis, 2012) but no
691
comparable provisions exist within sport. That fact that basic questions of how, when and to
692
whom to whistleblow were raised in our story points to the need for basic whistleblowing
693
information and guidance within sport. Questions of this nature could be answered quickly
694
and satisfactorily by an independent contact and, in turn, increase engagement with
695
whistleblowing. In addition to providing practical whistleblowing information, the
696
independent person should also familiarise the potential whistleblower with available sources
697
for emotional support (e.g., psychologists, welfare officers, ombudsman, etc.). The emotional
698
tension experienced by the whistleblower stemming from the fairness-loyalty tradeoff is
699
undeniable and having emotional support from the moment one becomes aware of doping
700
through to the time at which they no longer feel the need or desire to engage with such
701
support should be made available to all. Who the ideal ‘independent person(s)’ could or
702
Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
30
should be is beyond the scope of this paper, but one possibility worth considering is the
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viability of situating an independent body within the International Testing Agency given their
704
recent emergence on the global sporting scene. There is also scope for establishing
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whistleblowing-specific sport ombudsmen.
706
5.3 Conclusion
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We hope the story presented here will spark honest and action-oriented conversations
708
about whistleblowing within the global antidoping and sporting community. In
709
acknowledging and accepting the inherent challenges associated with whistleblowing, the
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sporting system then has a collective responsibility to act to bring about change in the
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structures, processes and practices that currently frame whistleblowing policies. As
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participants highlighted, blowing the whistle on doping is not a one-off event whereby you
713
report wrongdoing and walk away. Rather, it is a complex and ambiguous process that
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involves (a) identifying doping, (b) making the decision to report, and (c) dealing with the
715
repercussions of reporting. As the story illuminates, there can be long-term consequences for
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whistleblowers and these must be mitigated by evidence-informed whistleblowing policy and
717
practices. Creating a culture where individuals feel empowered and encouraged to speak up,
718
rather than one where they anticipate facing retribution for their courage, requires collective
719
action, and this starts with critical conversations that raise the voices of those who seek to
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protect the rights of athletes to compete in doping-free sport.
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Sport and anti-doping is at a pivotal crossroads and given that whistleblowing policies
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and practices are embryonic, we have a unique opportunity to shape them through a real
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whistleblowing narrative. More specifically, we have the opportunity to use our story to
724
ensure that whistleblowing policy and practice is not removed from those it is designed to
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help. Thus, we are challenged to acknowledge the shortcomings in current whistleblowing
726
policy and practice that shaped the (negative) whistleblowing experience outlined in this
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
31
story. In acknowledging these shortcomings, we are then compelled to take purposeful steps
728
towards ensuring future whistleblowers are not faced with the same challenges. Only then
729
will we realise the potential for whistleblowing to complement the detection-deterrence anti-
730
doping approach and serve as an effective deterrent for doping in sport.
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Funding Statement: This project is supported by financial funding from the
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World Anti-Doping Agency. The World Anti-Doping Agency has no authority in
733
the study design, collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of
734
the data.
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Blowing the whistle on doping in sport
32
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... My findings should also be of interest to practitioners and policymakers, as they assist in designing effective whistleblowing systems and environments in organizations. et al., 2008), sports (e.g., Erickson et al., 2018), military (e.g., Rehg et al., 2008, and police (e.g., Park & Blenkinsopp, 2009). ...
... Park and Lewis (2019) reveal that it took them four years to identify and contact a sample of 127 whistleblowers. This also explains the reliance on single case studies in actual whistleblowing (e.g., Erickson et al., 2018;Ohnishi et al., 2008) (Miceli & Near, 1988;: ...
... Organizational factors such as adequate whistleblowing channels (Miceli & Near, 1984) or a positive organizational climate toward whistleblowing (Bussmann & Niemeczek, 2019;Mayer et al., 2013;Mesmer-Magnus & Viswesvaran, 2005) have been shown to have positive effects on reporting behavior. Erickson et al. (2018) argue that education about whistleblowing and guidance on how to whistleblow would be an enabling factor. As such, I look specifically at compliance measures taken by companies and known to the questioned employees. ...
Article
Full-text available
Whistleblowing is an effective tool against fraud and corruption in organizations. However, as researchers have struggled to acquire data on actual whistleblowers, research relies on hypothetical intention data and student samples, which is seen as a major limitation. Using a field study of 1,416 employees from China, Germany, and Russia, the purpose of this article is to identify differences and similarities between intention and actual whistleblowing decisions, thus aiding research and interpretation of prior and future studies. I also contribute by analyzing whether findings can be generalized across different cultures and whether status and power influence the whistleblowing process. My results reveal that the key difference between hypothetical and real decisions is not in variables that affect the process, but in effect sizes: Employees underestimate the effect of situational (retaliation) and organizational (compliance measures) variables in hypothetical compared to actual whistleblowing. Thus, reliance on intention research is not inherently problematic, when effect sizes are interpreted with caution. I also find that results are similar across countries and that status and power may not be decisive factors in whistleblowing. My findings should also be of interest to practitioners and policymakers, as they assist in designing effective whistleblowing systems and environments in organizations.
... This has been described as a form of intense organizational loyalty (Adler & Adler, 1988). The result is that individuals may end up trading the morality of fairness (e.g., what is seen as right irrespective of the individuals in the situation) for the morality of loyalty, where they avoid whistleblowing to safeguard individuals or their sporting group (Erickson et al., 2019). ...
... To date research in sport has tended to focus on how whistleblowing is reported, the consequences and emotions of reporting, as well as the cultural barriers against this behavior (Erickson et al., 2017;Erickson et al., 2019;Moriconi & de Cima, 2020). While these sources provide an important contribution to whistleblowing research in sport, they have tended to focus on areas such as doping, match-fixing, and corruption, rather than abusive and bullying behaviors. ...
... There may still be a perception that whistleblowing leads to greater bullying (Park et al., 2020), especially when organizations like professional football remain underpinned by authoritarianism, subservience, and "rule-bound" behaviors (Parker & Manley, 2016). Therefore, in industries such as professional sport, individuals appear to trade the morality of principle around reporting wrongdoing, for the morality of loyalty (Erickson et al., 2019). The result is a level of commitment to their organization that goes beyond other occupations (Adler & Adler, 1988) which may be problematic in creating a psychologically unsafe climate. ...
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Only recently has research begun to focus on workplace bullying within organizations outside of traditional white-collar industries, such as professional football. While this is an important development, there remains a lack of understanding around the reporting of bullying in professional sport. In this paper, the authors explore how the professional football workplace shapes perceptions of whistleblowing and unearths individual perceptions around reporting bullying behavior. We used a phenomenological approach to gain rich experiential data from eighteen male professional football players in the UK. Interview data were analyzed in accordance with the principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Two superordinate themes were identified from the analysis, (a) professional football’s influence on whistleblowing, and (b) the challenges of reporting bullying. These themes highlighted that the unique, institutionalized nature of professional football interacts with participants’ ability to report bullying behavior. The participants’ accounts revealed divergent perceptions around how professional football shapes the degree to which players feel they can report bullying behavior. It was apparent that the authoritarian, often abusive and intimidatory nature of professional football significantly impacts whistleblowing. Our findings demonstrate the importance of workplace context when exploring the reporting of bullying behavior. They also demonstrate the need to address organizational culture and differentiate bullying education programs to alternative workplaces.
... The initial stage of creating the vignettes involved transcribing the audio files and then reading and re-reading each transcript several times. When reading the transcripts, the first named author highlighted key terms, quotes, and ideas that aligned with the study aims (Erickson et al., 2019). These highlighted sections were then copied into a separate Microsoft® Word document, which formed the skeleton of the vignettes (Blodgett et al., 2011;Erickson et al., 2016). ...
... To preserve Jade's spoken words, direct quotes from the transcripts were maintained wherever possible (Blodgett et al., 2011). Despite this, interview transcripts can be disjointed and chaotic, and therefore we had to take certain steps to enhance coherence (Erickson et al., 2016;Erickson et al., 2019). For example, we were required to remove or insert words to enhance the comprehensibility of the story (Peacock et al., 2018). ...
Article
Objectives This study aimed to address voids in academic literature by exploring the consequences of performance expectations from the perspective of a retired athlete. Methodology An instrumental case study was used to capture the experiences of a retired female athlete who had been exposed to performance expectations throughout her career. Six conversational life story interviews were conducted with the athlete and the data were represented in two portrait vignettes. Results The vignettes provide a rich and holistic account of the participant’s experiences of performance expectations. Salient points that are detailed throughout the vignettes include: i) the consequences (e.g., fear of failure, perceptions of pressure, magnification of intrapersonal expectations) of media expectations for the athlete; ii) factors that the athlete perceived to influence the consequences of media expectations (e.g., the amount of media attention received); iii) the cumulative consequences (e.g., nausea, lack of perceived control, butterflies) of interpersonal expectations from multiple perceivers (e.g., the media, coaches, the public, opponents); and iv) the presence of a fear culture associated with expectations, which had ramifications for the athlete’s well-being and their ability to talk about their experiences. Conclusions This article offers a novel insight to the multi-modal consequences of performance expectations for an athlete, the dominant role that the media played in shaping the athlete’s experiences, and the athlete’s inability to disclose her experiences of expectations. Stakeholders are encouraged to develop their own meanings, interpretations, and evaluations of the vignettes, and apply their interpretations to policy and practice.
... Whistleblowing against ADRVs and other doping-related misconduct has been recognized as an effective deterrent of doping behaviour in sport (Erickson et al., 2019;Verschuuren, 20202020), and WADA has invested significant resources in promoting this behaviour among competitive and elite athletes. Nevertheless, research on this topic is scarce and largely exploratory, using qualitative/inductive methods and small samples of athletes and students (e.g., Erickson et al., 2017;Whitaker et al., 2014). ...
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Whistleblowing against anti-doping rule violations and related misconduct has been recognized as an important deterrent of doping behaviour in competitive sport. However, research on whistleblowing against doping is scarce and the available studies have focused on small samples using qualitative and inductive approaches. The present study used quantitative methods to assess, for the first time, the association between self-determined motivation, achievement goals, sportspersonship orientations and intentions to engage in whistleblowing against doping misconduct. A total of 992 competitive athletes from Greece (n = 480) and Russia (n = 512) completed structured measures of self-determination, achievement goals, sportspersonship orientation beliefs, and intentions to report doping misconduct. Latent profile analysis classified athletes into clusters consistent with the theoretical predictions. One-way analyses of variance further showed consistently across countries that autonomous motivated athletes reported higher intentions to whistleblow, and athletes with higher scores in achievement goals and sportspersonship orientations had significantly higher scores in whistleblowing intentions, compared to those with lower scores in these characteristics in both countries. This is the first study to demonstrate the association between motivational regulations, achievement goals, sportspersonship beliefs, and whistleblowing intentions. The theoretical and policy implications of our study are discussed.
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The prime driver of the harmonization of anti-doping has been the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose Code is the universal document upon which the anti-doping program is predicated. This paper critically examines the contents of the revised 2021 World Anti-Doping Code (2021 Code) and evaluates how far it goes towards meeting the goals prescribed under it, namely: to promote health, fairness, and equality for athletes by making sport doping-free, and to ensure harmonized, coordinated, and effective anti-doping programs at the international and national level. Through the analysis of the 2021 Code, the authors argue that the provisions introduced are significant. The amendments attempt to strike a fine balance between strengthening the anti-doping regime and promoting clean sport, while also attempting to ensure that the rights of athletes are better protected. However, it is also argued that some significant gaps still exist and there is room for further reform. In addition, the enforcement of the Code at all levels within the anti-doping framework is critical, especially with respect to the athletes’ guarantees and rights enshrined thereunder. As such, WADA and National Anti-Doping Organizations have an important role to play in ensuring that the rights of athletes are protected. This paper furthers the discourse on the need to safeguard the interests of athletes while promoting clean sport, and discusses a mix of legal and socio-political perspectives to critique the current anti-doping framework.
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Although whistleblowing is presented as an ethical action, the fate of the employee who has blown the whistle is often marked by reprisals, such as job loss. The literature has so far shown little interest in the whistleblower’s subsequent career. This article investigates how retaliatory job loss impacts his or her career path and the process for re-integrating into the labour market. Based on 11 career narratives focused on the professional experience of French whistleblowers, this article shows that they faced a bifurcation that can be schematized in six stages (event, moratorium, reassessment, job search, insertion, stabilization) as their emotions and actions change over time. As with any job loss, individuals face psychological difficulties associated with the grievance, but this article also highlights specificities, particularly in terms of isolation, reputation and trust in the business world. Their presence threatening the dominant norms, whistleblowers face contradictions and need the support of the social and institutional environment for their professional reintegration.
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The present study investigated the beliefs of athletes and sport stakeholders about whistleblowing against doping in elite competitive sport. Semi-structured interviews took place with five elite athletes, five coaches and five sport directors, from both team and individual sports in Cyprus. Three themes were identified through thematic analysis and reflected issues pertaining to: (a) understanding whistleblowing, (b) facilitating factors and barriers to whistleblowing, and (c) aspects of a reliable and transparent reporting system. Our findings corroborate previous research on whistleblowing against doping in sport, and provide novel insights about the beliefs, attitudes, and concerns of sport stakeholders, such as coaches and sport directors, about the feasibility of existing whistleblowing policies and processes. The policy and practice implications of our findings are discussed.
Article
Purpose The implementation of whistleblowing policies is emblematic of the reforms undertaken by international sports organisations in the aftermath of major governance and integrity scandals. However, sport has particular organisational and cultural characteristics that reduce the likelihood of whistleblowing behaviour. This article looks at the quality of reporting policies in sports to assess how far the reporting mechanisms encourage whistleblowers. Design/methodology/approach A whistleblowing policy quality assessment system was built and applied to 45 international sport organisations. Findings The research identified 23 reporting mechanisms but, despite marked differences between them, most policies are of low quality. In particular, whistle-blower protection regimes and promotion strategies are lacking. Research limitations/implications The research suggests that reporting mechanisms currently in place are not likely to encourage whistle-blowers and questions the performance of these mechanisms as well as the objectives of the organisations, which may reflect “window-dressing” strategies. This may have implications for other areas of “good governance” reform. Practical implications An assessment questionnaire for sport reporting policies has been created and tested. It was sent to international sport organisations to assist them in identifying policy gaps and improving their policy. Originality/value The analysis does not limit itself to the presence or absence of “good governance” measures. It also explores their quality. It proposes a comprehensive assessment grid for whistleblowing policies in international sport that practitioners and researchers may wish to use in future.
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